March 22, 2024

How to Communicate Better in Relationships When You Struggle with Anxious Attachment

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A woman drinking from a pink coffee mug. Get the support you deserve at Gold Therapy. Our anxiety counseling in NYC, NY is here to help you!
A woman drinking from a pink coffee mug. Get the support you deserve at Gold Therapy. Our anxiety counseling in NYC, NY is here to help you!

Close relationships require a lot of effort! Even if your relationship is going well and things feel effortless, you’re still doing your part to keep things humming smoothly.

Relationships call for a balance of give and take, a willingness to see your partner’s point of view, and a healthy respect for your partner’s boundaries and independence. Relationship maintenance can be difficult at times for anyone (trust me, I can speak to that!), but if you’re someone who identifies as having an anxious attachment style, then each and every day can feel like a challenge in your relationship.

We’ll get more into those challenges shortly, but first, I want to emphasize that you’re not alone in your struggles. Research suggests that about 40% of children are insecurely attached. This means that two in every five of us adults have a difficult time feeling secure in our relationships.

The good news is that with the right guidance and support, your attachment style can shift for the better. This assertion is backed by clinical research, and as a relational therapist, it’s at the heart of my approach to clients. I know it might be hard to imagine now, but you absolutely can get to a place where you feel more trusting, safe, and secure in your relationship.

In this post, we’ll look at how anxious attachment styles develop, what it’s like to live with anxious attachment, and how exactly it affects you and your relationships. Finally, I’ll share some helpful strategies that you can practice to help ease your anxiety and build the kind of deep, connected relationship you deserve.

What Causes Anxious Attachment?

Attachment styles are formed during childhood and determined by the way you were raised. An anxious attachment style develops when a primary caregiver is inconsistent about tending to the needs of their child. At times, this parent figure may be fully accessible, but at other times, they’re preoccupied. It might be that they are preoccupied with something that weighs heavily on them – a demanding job, a chronically ill parent, a difficult marriage – or it could be that are preoccupied with their own needs, as can be the case when a parent suffers from depression, addiction, or another mental health disorder. If a child is not emotionally cared for with consistency, she may resort to excessive displays of neediness in order to capture her parent’s attention. A child raised this way will cling to their parent out of fear of continued emotional abandonment.

How Does Anxious Attachment Affect You and Your Relationships?

Anxious attachment makes it extremely difficult to feel secure in your relationships, and this can take a toll on your self-esteem. It’s very common for individuals with an anxious attachment style to question their own self-worth. You might perceive yourself as needy and worry that others find you burdensome. This has everything to do with the fact that as a child, your primary caregiver somehow communicated this message. They may have felt that your needs were more than they could handle at times, but that was a reflection of their state of mind and their inability to give you what you needed. Nevertheless, you’ve carried that message through life and treat it as a truth about who you are. The belief that you’re a burden becomes a source of personal anxiety in your relationships.

Individuals with anxious attachment have difficulty trusting others. This can also be traced to childhood: if your primary caregiver was unreliable, trust couldn’t be formed. You couldn’t trust them to be there consistently. As an adult, these feelings of mistrust surface in your other relationships. The fear of abandonment or fear of rejection that was present during your childhood persists in adulthood.

Your closest relationships should be a source of comfort, but when you live with fears around abandonment or rejection, they can instead become a source of anxiety. Anxious attachment can lead to difficulties in your relationships. Less trust can result in more frequent conflicts and misunderstandings. You might find yourself seeking constant reassurance, or feel anxious or jealous when your partner is away from you. You might have high expectations about having all of your needs met in the relationship, which can cause anger, disappointment, and resentment when your partner falls short.

Anxious Attachment Makes Communication Difficult

An anxious attachment style generates anxiety in your relationships. When anxiety takes hold, it affects the way you perceive and process information, and it can interfere with your ability to communicate clearly and effectively. For example, you might find yourself overthinking every text message or conversation, worrying about how your words will be perceived. You might struggle to express your thoughts and feelings in an honest and vulnerable way, fearing that your partner will reject or abandon you. Anxiety can cause you to overanalyze your partner’s tone, body language, and words, leading to arguments or misunderstandings.

Anxiety has a profound effect on our thoughts. When you’re anxious, your mind may be flooded with negative thoughts and worst-case scenarios. You might catastrophize minor issues, or jump to conclusions without evidence. This can lead you to communicate in ways that are defensive, accusatory, or emotionally charged, rather than calm and construction. If your partner is running late for a date, for example, your anxiety might convince you that they don’t really care about you or that they’re losing interest in you. Instead of calmly expressing your feelings of irritation about your partner arriving late, you might lash out in anger or withdraw emotionally.

Anxious Attachment Can Prevent Strong and Authentic Connections

Two friends sitting together on a rock. With the help of an anxiety therapist in NYC, NY, you can heal your anxious attachment. Call today to begin anxiety therapy!

When you aren’t able to experience a sense of security in your relationships, the strength and quality of those important relationships will be impacted. If you feel anxious, you might constantly seek reassurance from your partner, needing them to validate your worth and allay your fears. Over time, this can put strain on your relationship, as your partner may feel pressured to constantly prove their love, loyalty, and commitment. Your anxiety can also cause you to hold back from fully engaging in your relationship. You might avoid vulnerability, for fear that opening up will lead to rejection or abandonment. This emotional distance can prevent you from building the deep, meaningful connection you so badly crave (and deserve!).

Worst of all, anxiety stemming from anxious attachment can lead to a painful cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe that you’re unlovable or that your partner will inevitably reject or leave you, you might unintentionally behave in ways that push them away. You might act in ways that are clingy, jealous, or controlling, causing your partner to feel suffocated and disconnected. Breaking free from these painful anxious attachment patterns requires self-awareness and learning how to communicate your feelings and needs effectively.

How to Communicate Your Needs Effectively When Anxiety Gets in the Way

Despite the challenges that an anxious attachment style can pose in relationships, there are compassionate and practical steps you can take to communicate your needs more effectively:

1. Practice self-awareness:

Take the time to sit down and understand your own thoughts, feelings, and triggers that come up in your relationships. Journaling can be an especially helpful tool for facilitating self-reflection. With compassion, begin to get curious about yourself. What situations or circumstances tend to trigger your relationship anxiety? What in particular about those situations generates fearful anxiety? When your anxiety gets activated, what are the thoughts that come up? Where does your mind take you? What worries and fears arise? What conclusions do you draw? Be as specific with your answers as you can while you strive toward greater self-understanding. The better you can understand yourself, the easier it becomes to ground yourself in difficult moments, and the easier it becomes to communicate your thoughts and feelings to your partner.

2. Use “I” statements:

When expressing your needs, focus on your own feelings and experiences, rather than blaming or accusing your partner. For example, instead of saying, “You never make time for me,” try, “I feel lonely and disconnected when we don’t spend time together.”

3. Be specific about your needs:

Clearly communicate what you need from your partner to feel supported and secure. This might include asking for more quality time, physical affection, or words of affirmation.

4. Be mindful of overreliance on reassurance:

We all need emotional reassurance from time to time, but if you struggle with anxious attachment, it can feel like you need it all the time. In this case, think of reassurance as a band-aid: it’ll offer you temporary relief, but that relief soon wears off, which will keep you coming back for more. Reassurance of love and commitment from your partner feels good, but if you rely on that to feel secure, you’ll remain dependent on it. Spend some time reflecting on when and how often you seek reassurance from your partner. Think about how you can slowly begin to replace it with self-soothing. When you can self-soothe effectively, you’ll begin to rely less on external validation and reassurance to feel secure about your relationship.

5. Listen actively:

Be sure to listen to your partner’s needs, too. Practice showing the kind empathy and understanding that you want, and work together to find solutions that meet both of your needs. As you work on these strategies, continue to practice self-awareness by paying attention to what comes up for you. Notice any anxious thoughts, fears, or doubts that show up when you express your needs or engage in difficult conversations with your partner. By continuing to observe your internal experiences, you will gain valuable insights into your anxious thoughts, patterns, and triggers.

This awareness will allow you to challenge and reframe unhelpful thoughts, develop effective coping strategies, and approach communicating with your partner with greater clarity and confidence. Finally, acknowledging your own internal experiences can help you communicate more authentically and vulnerably to your partner. When you share your genuine feelings, you create opportunities for deeper understanding, empathy, and connection. And if you find yourself continuing to struggle, anxiety therapy in New York City can help you to learn and implement strategies to validate yourself and build self-worth and self-confidence.

Anxiety Therapy is a Safe Space for Healing and Overcoming Anxious Attachment

Therapy provides a safe and supportive space for you to heal and grow. If you’re struggling to overcome the anxiety that coexists with your anxious attachment patterns, therapy can help. If you pursue therapy for anxiety in NYC, your therapist can help you to develop greater self-understanding and self-compassion. Your anxiety therapist will pay attention to childhood wounds that continue to cause pain and affect your relationships so that you can begin to heal. You’ll have the opportunity to work on your communication skill set. And finally, you’ll learn how to have a more loving and secure relationship not only with your partner but with yourself.

A couple kissing on a beach, in front of sunset. Work through your anxious attachment with an anxiety therapist in NYC, NY. Call today to begin anxiety counseling.

Learn How to Access the Best Version of Yourself with Therapy for Anxiety in NYC

Your anxiety in relationships isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a reflection of the life you lived and the kind of relationships you had as a child. Your anxiety is a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define you. With the right tools, guidance, and support from Gold Therapy, you can begin to heal, grow, and change so that your anxious attachment patterns are a thing of the past.

Getting Started with an Anxiety Therapist

At Gold Therapy in NYC, our mission is to empower you so that you feel good about who you are, the relationships you’ve built, and the life you live. Our team of therapists understands the complexities of anxiety and can provide you with the tools and guidance to better navigate your relationships. We welcome you to take this first step towards an anxiety-free you by seeking therapy for anxiety in NYC.

To begin, let’s have a conversation:

  1. Book a Consult with us.
  2. Learn more about us and our services.
  3. Communicate with your authentic voice and build stronger connections!

Other Therapy Services Offered at Gold Therapy NYC

You’re goal-oriented and want to learn skills that will help you better manage your anxiety, but you might be thinking about addressing other parts of yourself that hold you back from reaching your full potential. At Gold Therapy NYC, we offer a variety of therapy services to meet your specific needs, and we support you to feel more empowered and confident. We offer additional therapy services for Depression, Communication & Boundaries, Self Development & Esteem, and more. Together, we can work towards creating a life that feels fulfilling and authentic to you. To learn more about our therapy services, visit our website. You deserve to have satisfying relationships built on trust and genuine understanding. Let us help you get there.